Imagine if you told a patient you’d charge them $1,000 for a root canal. Then they get the bill in the mail and it says they owe $1,250. The patient would probably be upset right? Dental schools are effectively doing this to dental students all around the country with faulty cost estimates of dental school.
The Average Private School Dental Student After 2020 Will Leave with Over $500,000 in Debt
Right now the typical dentist I consult with has a student loan debt of around $400,000. There is a big range around this student loan average and most clients have between $200,000 (state school w/ in state tuition) to $600,000 (specialist who used forbearance during residency). However, these numbers are going to get far worse in the future.
|Program Year||Published Total Cost|
Here’s the thing. These numbers just aren’t true for an entering first year. They’re based on current cost of attendance. You cannot lock these numbers in any more than I can go buy season tickets to the St. Louis Cardinals in 10 years at today’s rates.
Dental schools should show the expected four year cost of attendance and take into account probable 5% tuition and fee increases per year and factor in inflation into the cost of living. Tufts lists the cost of tuition at $70,712 each year.
That’s totally wrong. Tufts officials KNOW that they will not be leaving tuition alone for an entire four year period, as do the other dental schools that list their expected cost this way.
These numbers also leave out the crucial fact that loans accrue interest while you’re in school.
The Real Four Year Cost of Dental School
I’ll use a 4% rate of increase in the total cost of attendance in my real estimate of the four year cost of Tufts dental.
I’ll also assume that you accrue interest at a rate of 7% per year and that you borrow the entire cost of attendance. The total will represent the true cost of Tufts Dental for the class of 2021.
|Program Year||Realistic Total Cost|
Every Dental School Misrepresents its Cost of Attendance
I picked on Tufts because it is one of the country’s most expensive dental schools. Even so, these numbers are very typical of private dental schools or out of state public schools.
The cost estimates never account for tuition and fee increases that will almost certainly happen. The estimates also leave out the cost of interest accumulation while you’re in school.
I’m no lawyer, but I think future dental students burdened by mountains of debt might have few options left but to pursue a class action lawsuit against the university for false advertising. If the four year published cost is $425,000 but a typical student leaves with $550,000, the published estimate is wrong.
I’ve verified this is what happens by speaking to hundreds of dentists with six figure student debt while doing student loan repayment consults. They told me how their school would give them a tuition increase notice, but they never thought about comparing that to the published cost of attendance when they were applying.
One dentist kept the cost estimate he received at orientation and shared it with me. The two figures of what they told him he would pay versus what he actually paid were wildly divergent.
How to Figure Out How Much Dental School Will Cost
To get a realistic idea of how much dental school debt you will have at graduation, you need to make some adjustments to the numbers the school gives you.
Assume each year, dental school tuition increases at a rate of 4% (as long as they are more applicants than seats, the price of a dental education will go up).
Project a 4% rate of inflation for living expenses just to be safe (most schools assume constant personal expenses for all four years, which is unrealistic).
Then account for accruing interest at a rate of 7%. D1 expenses accrue for four years, D2 expenses accrue for three years, etc.
Putting it Together to Project the Cost of Dental School
Here’s what NYU Dental school lists as the cost of dental school for the class of 2025.
|Program Year||Education Expenses||Living Expenses|
The grand total would be $517,812 if you borrowed only the dollars listed on the dental school cost of attendance.
Dental School Tuition is Higher than it Appears
Let’s look at the first year educational cost of $95,276. We’ll need to multiply $95,276*(1+0.07*4)= $121,953.
This is the impact of accrued interest. We’ll also increase this by 2% to adjust for origination fees, so $121,953*(1+0.02) = $124,392 is my projection of the indebtedness for the first year’s educational expense.
For years besides year 1, we should assume a 4% tuition increase.
Financial Aid Doesn’t Adjust for Inflation in Living Expenses
For the fourth year living expense of $37,858, I’ll adjust for four year’s worth of 4% inflation, assuming the financial aid office doesn’t have their pulse on the local real estate market. That makes $37,858*(1.04^4) into $44,288.
Now tack on one year of accrued interest at 7% plus 2% origination fees, and that’s equal to $44,288*(1+0.07)*(1+0.02) = $48,336. That’s the number we’ll use for that year in terms of how much debt a graduating dental student would have.
What this New Dentist Would Owe
Making all the adjustments I demonstrated above, here’s what the cost would look like in terms of what the dentist would actually borrow for each year.
|Actual DDS Debt||For Education||For Living|
The grand total of debt that a rising first year student could expect to owe at graduation would be about $664,154.
Compared to the $517,812 cost listed online, that’s about 28% higher. Caveat Emptor (may the buyer beware).
Yes the Cost Estimates of Dental School Are Wrong, Sadly You Still Have to Pay it Back
There are a host of different strategies to mitigate a huge dental school student loan bill. If you owe a lot relative to your income, you should optimize the government repayment programs for maximum benefit.
If your debt to income ratio is moderate, then shopping for private refinancing rates will help. I have affiliate agreements that get you $200-$500 for refinancing that you don’t get if you visit the companies’ websites directly.
Outside of some miracle, you’re going to have to pay back this debt. The same financial aid offices that produce cost estimates of dental school that are wildly inaccurate might not provide the help you’re looking for.
If that’s you, I can help. You can help future dentists by warning them to add 20% to 30% to whatever total four year cost estimates of dental school that their prospective program hands them.
I Can Help with Dental School Loans
My business model here at Student Loan Planner, LLC is helping graduate professionals (especially dentists) conquer huge student loan balances with flat fee consultations.
I perform a holistic loan analysis with my proprietary simulation tool to see what your best available repayment options are (government, private refinancing, etc).